LABOUR Minister Ján Richter certainly has some challenging bites on his ministerial plate including the country’s notoriously high unemployment, its perpetually-revised pension system as well as the dizzying prospect of reforming the payroll levy system. Yet the media is quizzing him for an explanation over the legitimacy of his law degree after the Sme daily reported alleged problems with the accreditation of the course that earned Richter his bachelor’s degree. Richter’s former school, Matej Bel University, stated that everything was in line with the rules and that any doubts are the result of a misunderstanding.
Education Minister Dušan Čaplovič said that he does not want to step into the affairs of Matej Bel University and thus will not initiate an inquiry into Richter’s bachelor’s degree.
“I respect the autonomy of universities as the law stipulates and I am not entering this process,” said Čaplovič, as quoted by the SITA newswire. “Moreover, the accreditation committee of the government, which has the authority to judge many of these issues, can also deal with this process. It is an internal affair of the university.”
Sme reported that Richter graduated from the law school of Matej Bel University based on a disputed bachelor’s degree. The degree, dated January 19, 2002, is signed by the then rector of the university, Milan Murgaš, who was previously a senior Smer official but was expelled from the now-ruling party in 2009.
According to Sme, Richter received the diploma five months before Murgaš on June 6, 2002, publicly described the course in international law as unaccredited, which meant it could not lead to the award of a bachelor’s degree. Richter was ultimately awarded a degree for the law course.
“I understand the media’s natural interest in my person as a public figure; my achieved education,” Richter said in a paid-for story published by the SITA newswire, adding that only his school can respond to these questions since they lie entirely within its powers.
The ruling Smer party led by Prime Minister Robert Fico does not intend to initiate an MPs’ audit at Matej Bel University, with the deputy chairman of the parliamentary education committee, Ľubomír Petrák, saying that only if there were relevant information and “not tabloid newspaper articles” then the committee would deal with it, Sme reported.
Sme listed several circumstances which it dubbed suspicious surrounding Richter’s diploma.
Referring to Richter’s diploma, the former dean of the law school, Pavel Kandráč, said that he had “not issued anything”, according to Sme. His successor Július Kováč also denied having signed the diploma.
The school’s current dean, Beáta Kosová, told Sme that the signature on the diploma belongs to the late Zoltán Valentovič, who served as Kandráč’s deputy and who, according to Kosová, could have signed it.
“According to information available to me, me and an additional 38 students who completed their bachelors’ degree at that time have diplomas with the signature of the then dean as well as the then rector, Milan Murgaš,” Richter said, adding that his diploma is dated January 19, 2002.
However, the daily also reported that the first 39 diplomas issued as a result of the disputed course had been shredded and that the circumstances of the shredding have not been sufficiently explained.
“Everything has been in line with the law,” Kosová said, adding that in 2002 the school provided courses only in law, and that she considers talk about an international law course as a misunderstanding.
Kosová said that students had a specialisation in international law within the law course, which means that there was a stronger emphasis on international law.
The Education Ministry has said that ten years ago the law school had accreditation only for its law course.
Thanks to his bachelor degree, Richter later obtained a master’s degree in law and, soon afterwards, submitted a doctoral thesis.
Sme reported that his doctorate in law was awarded just a few months after he completed his master’s studies in 2007.
Sme wrote that a colleague of Richter's in Smer party, Mojmír Mamojka, occupied the position of dean of the law school at the university during Richter’s accelerated academic career.